Oscar Madrid Padilla: First PhD in Statistics Program Graduate

padilla oscar700Photo by Vivian Abagiu17 May 2017—Oscar Madrid Padilla will become the first person to receive a PhD by The University of Texas at Austin's Department of Statistics and Data Sciences (SDS) this May. The department was formed in August 2014 and replaced the Division of Statistics and Scientific Computation.

Madrid Padilla, a native of Honduras, has done research with broad applications, and often works at the intersection of statistics and other fields, having collaborated with researchers across UT Austin and at other universities. His advisor was James Scott, a professor in SDS and the McCombs School of Business.

Scott and Madrid Padilla collaborated with Alex Athey, of UT Austin's Applied Research Laboratories, on work which could help in the detection of radioactive material in real time, a valuable resource for law enforcement trying to prevent the use of a so-called dirty bomb, where explosives are paired with radioactive material, with potential to unleash a devastating terrorist attack.

There are two key challenges in detecting radioactive anomalies and alerting authorities. First is that the intensity of the anomaly is usually very small compared to the background radiation of the surroundings. And second, the detection of such material must be done in real time.

To overcome those limitations, Madrid Padilla took inspiration from a set of statistical ideas, based on studying so-called stochastic processes. He created computer algorithms which could detect small anomalies in radiation effectively in real time with limited data.

After graduation, Madrid Padilla will be going to the University of California at Berkeley as a postdoctoral researcher to pursue research interests in statistics. The focus of his research will be in anomaly detection, high dimensional statistics, and also exploring natural language processing and potential healthcare applications.


Read the full article by Marc Airhart here:

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